Usually the assembly before Holderness Day serves as a pep rally. Loud cheering and chanting, building school spirit as we prepare to make the drive north and conquer our foes. But Friday’s assembly was not that. It was far more powerful, far better preparation for what Holderness Day is really about: being vulnerable, supporting each other regardless of outcome, and daring greatly.
Each season we split into our teams and afternoon activities. We work hard to cultivate a culture within that group. We often sit with our teams in the dining hall for meals, share laughs through our group chats, and spend more hours with this group of individuals than any other. For the past eleven weeks, we have operated in our own sphere, cognizant of that which orbits around us, but largely focused on our team.
Sharing a meal with people you care about is an event as ancient as you can get. Breaking bread together is a symbol of forgiveness, togetherness, and a shared understanding of our humanity. It is a signal of coming together, sharing resources, and forging friendships. It is especially important in our fast paced world, where a sit down dinner can be elusive at a school like Proctor where we are all going in a hundred different directions, all good directions, but different. This past weekend we carved out time for Advisory dinners. Some had to play field hockey at New Hampton, or soccer against Bridgton, but we did our best to share a meal together, and it was a powerful experience.
I am not a social media user, but I like to stay somewhat connected to that nether world, and this week I have become more aware of a phenomena that I had only been vaguely aware of: the cancel culture. A couple of articles in the New York Times sharpened awareness of a trend that plays out from middle school to college and beyond, the act of severing ties to an individual as a result of what are perceived to be irreconcilable differences or offenses. In an age of hypersensitivity, the cancel culture has taken off. In an age of fractured communities, I find it worrisome.
The steady stream of prospective families through our Admissions Office over the past month resulted in a 20% increase in October tours over our five year average. While a far-too-early indicator of enrollment numbers for the 2020-2021 school year, it is a data point. There’s something intriguing about this random school plopped on 2,500 acres in the Blackwater River valley between Ragged Mountain and Mount Kearsarge. So what is it? Why are families interested in Proctor when all of the data shared by the Enrollment Management Association (EMA) and TABS on independent boarding school enrollment trend the opposite direction?
Browse the news and it does not take long to recognize the current struggle we have as a society to honor the humanity of the other. A culture of polarization encourages us to seek opportunities for division, to highlight our differences rather than the bonds we share as a human race. As powerful as these voices of despair feel, they pale in comparison to the joy we experience when we actually spend time playing alongside others. Today, we made a powerful step toward unity as we welcomed our friends from Special Olympics New Hampshire to Proctor’s sixth annual Special Olympics Fun Day.
We’re obsessed with sports. So many fans, so many teams, so many opportunities to lose oneself in a quarter, a half, or a period. I’m not saying that it is a bad thing, and truth be told it might be one of the few distractions that can push the dire din of news off to the side. At least temporarily. One can only imagine that having the Washington Nationals in the World Series is a good thing for D.C. How could the first two games played in Houston and won by the Nationals not bring needed distraction and cheer to the beltway region? It’s just the nature of the beast.
Traipse through the New England woods long enough and you will run across old stone walls bisecting a dense forest. Follow those walls and you will likely find an old cellar hole. Once a home, these remnants transport you to a different era when Proctor’s 2,500 acres were clear cut pasture sprinkled with farms of hardworking men, women, and children scraping a living off the rocky soil. An era when connection was found through human interaction, walking to your neighbor’s home to help bring in the hay, share a meal, repair a wagon. An era when it was acceptable to care deeply about those walking through life with you to show your emotional investment in their well-being.